Foshan, formerly romanized as Fatshan, is a prefecture-level city in central Guangdong Province in southeastern China. The entire prefecture covers 3,848.49 km2 (1,485.91 sq mi) and has an urban population around 7.2 million. It forms part of the western side of the Pearl River Delta Economic Zone, which includes Guangzhou to the north and Shenzhen to the east.
Foshan is regarded as the home of the Cantonese forms of Chinese opera, kung fu, lion dancing, and dragon boat racing.
Foshan remained a minor settlement on the Fen River for most of China's history. It developed around a Tang-era Buddhist monastery that was destroyed in 1391. (Nanhai was separately established at Broken Bowls Point in 1271 by two brothers fleeing the Mongol invasion of the north.) The Foshan Ancestral Temple, a Taoist temple to the Northern God (Beidi) that was rebuilt in 1372, became the new focus of the community by the 15th century. By the early Ming, Foshan had grown into one of the four great markets in China, primarily on the strength of its local ceramics but also on account of its metalwork. Under the Qing, its harbor on the Fen River was limited to ships of a thousand tons' burden but it remained well connected with Guangdong's other ports. By the 19th century, it was considered the "Birmingham of China", with its steel industry responsible for the consumption of the majority of the province's iron production. It was connected to Guangzhou and Sanshui by rail in the early 20th century. The Ancestral Temple was converted into the Foshan Municipal Museum upon the victory of the Communists in the Chinese Civil War in 1949.
Foshan remained primarily focused on ceramic and steel production until the 1950s, when it became an urbanizing political center. On 26 June 1951 it left Nanhai County to become a separate county-level city and, in 1954, it was made the seat of the prefectural government. Its economy stagnated through the Cultural Revolution—traditional ceramic ware was forbidden and its workshops were turned to producing Maoist and Revolutionary folderol — but it continued to grow, reaching 300,000 people by the 1970s, making it the province's second city after Guangzhou. As early as 1973, however, its agriculture and consumer industries were permitted to become an export production base and a modern highway linked it to Guangzhou soon after; this permitted its party secretary Tong Mengqing and mayor Yu Fei to take full advantage when Deng Xiaoping introduced his Opening Up policies after the fall of the Gang of Four. In 1983, Foshan was promoted to a prefecture-level city with its former core becoming the new Chancheng District, but lost the southwestern half of its former territory to Jiangmen. On 8 December 2002, Shunde and Nanhai joined its urban core as a full district. Shunde has gone on to obtain an unusual autonomous status in 2009, placing its oversight in the hands of the provincial government rather than the prefectural one.
Foshan lies on the Fen River in the estuaries making up the west side of the Pearl River Delta. Guangzhou lies 25 kilometers (16 mi) to the northeast, Zhongshan to the southeast, Jiangmen to the south, Qingyuan to the west, and Zhaoqing to the west.
Foshan experiences a humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa).